There’s something real strange about Trancers. It’s not the film’s obvious references to early 1980s sci-fi successes, Blade Runner and The Terminator (cop travels back in time to fight zombie bad guys who look like regular people). It’s certainly not the direction–while Trancers is incredibly low budget, $400,000 still was a few bucks in 1985, certainly enough for this story, which doesn’t need its future scenes. No, what’s strange about Trancers is its love story, between future cop Tim Thomerson and local girl Helen Hunt. It’s real good. The scenes between Hunt and Thomerson, though poorly written, are great.
I used to be a huge Helen Hunt fan, until she became a big movie star, then I noticed she was good when she didn’t have a kid. But in Trancers, she’s appealing, with a great acting sense. She’s around twenty-two in this film, but it’s a reasoned, mature performance. Thomerson is also good, but his acting is a completely different style. I saw Trancers initially, years ago, because Leonard Maltin gave it two and a half or something and based the rating on Thomerson’s comedic performance. Thomerson’s got a tough guy self-awareness in Trancers. The opening of the film–the future–is very film noir. The costumes, the dialogue. But, first it’s in a future cafe, so it shouldn’t really work, and then it’s on a sunny beach, so it shouldn’t work either… but it does. The absurdity of it works. But the scenes with Thomerson and Hunt, you get to watch these two vastly different acting styles, which ought to conflict, seamlessly connect. You enjoy seeing these two people act together.
Another bonus to Trancers (but not one significant enough to save it if not for the acting, which I also need to include Biff Manard in, he’s good) is the economical storytelling. It runs seventy-six minutes and, while the first act with all the future stuff is too long, the second and third acts are real well-paced. Actually, given its writers, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo are TV guys, it’s not surprising the second and third acts actually feel like a TV show plugged on to the end of (bad) feature’s first act. The writing’s not good, but the movie moves and it’s not bad enough to hinder the performances.
Produced and directed by Charles Band; written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; edited by Ted Nicolaou; music by Phil Davies and Mark Ryder; production designer, Jeff Staggs; released by Empire Pictures.
Starring Tim Thomerson (Jack Deth), Helen Hunt (Leena), Michael Stefani (Whistler), Art LaFleur (McNulty), Telma Hopkins (Engineer Ruthie Raines), Richard Herd (Chairman Spencer), Anne Seymour (Chairman Ashe), Miguel Fernandes (Officer Lopez) and Biff Manard (Hap Ashby).